Your thyroid gland produces a hormone that affects the rate at which your entire body operates. When there is a problem with your thyroid, it affects your metabolism, your heart rate, your weight, and your level of energy. It can also have physical effects, such as the development of a goiter or thyroid nodule.
There are three common thyroid problems: hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and nodules. An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) produces too much hormone. This can cause a fast heartbeat, heat intolerance, anxiety, sleeplessness, unusual weight loss, muscular weakness and other conditions. Hyperthyroidism can also cause the thyroid to become enlarged, a condition known as a goiter.
With hypothyroidism the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormone, which leads to a decreased metabolism, fatigue, weight gain, and slowed thinking. An underactive thyroid is sometimes the source of a slow heartbeat, cold intolerance, and thick puffy skin.
Nodules may also form on the thyroid gland. These nodules often give the sensation of a lump in the throat that you can see or feel with your fingers. Most of the time, these nodules don't affect the functioning of the thyroid. Over time, however, they can grow larger, causing difficulty in breathing and swallowing. In some cases, they are cancerous.
Treatment of Thyroid Disease
The majority of thyroid problems can effectively be treated with medication or thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism can be treated with medications that normalize the excess hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism can be treated by taking thyroid hormone pills to return blood levels of thyroid hormone to normal. Thyroid nodules, however, need evaluation with a biopsy. The results will determine whether surgery or medical treatment is necessary.
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